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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently bought a home and the inspection showed that there were some copper wiring in this old home that at the outlets was pigtailed with newer copper wiring. Now, some of the pigtailing work was done very poorly. One of the things the electrician was contracted to do was to make the home safe, and repair this shoddy work.

The electrician came and did the work. Here we are, roughly a month later, and I noticed some lights flickering so on a hunch had another electrical company do a thorough inspection to see how the work was. Should have done that immediately, but live and learn. So, he explained to me that, as the image shows, the work was done in the cheapest method possible ,and now my outlets are like this. This means I have a potential fire hazard all over my house now.

He said that these are required to be pigtailed with allumicon connectors and they are not. Obviously, I want to tell the original electrician to come back and do the work correctly.

My questions, and I really hope someone can help clarify this for me as I have zero knowledge of electrical stuff, are:

1) How serious of a fire hazard is this?
2) The invoice/contract for having the work done says:
"Removed electrical devices to pig tail and noaloxed as need and
Reinstall (existing )"

So, it says he used noalox rather than allumicon, which I hope I'm not screwing up the terminology. But I am told that this is entirely not to code, this is a licensed electrician, can I tell him he has to come back and bring the house to code?

If not, then I guess I am contacting my home warranty

In the end...do I need to be worried about this stuff burning my house down by the way it was done?

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If the old wiring was aluminum, then there are two proven, safe ways to fix that. One is to use Alumiconn connectors to make the connection from the aluminum wire to a copper pigtail that goes to the switch or outlet. The other is for a trained electrician to use COPALUM crimp connectors to connect the copper pigtail. This second method requires a special tool, and also that the electrician has gone through training by the manufacturer. You won't find many electricians that have that training.

Your first electrician did not do a proper job with what he did.

You can read more about these repairs in this report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
If the old wiring was aluminum, then there are two proven, safe ways to fix that. One is to use Alumiconn connectors to make the connection from the aluminum wire to a copper pigtail that goes to the switch or outlet. The other is for a trained electrician to use COPALUM crimp connectors to connect the copper pigtail. This second method requires a special tool, and also that the electrician has gone through training by the manufacturer. You won't find many electricians that have that training.

Your first electrician did not do a proper job with what he did.

You can read more about these repairs in this report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What would you suggest as a solution. It sounds like you are saying he attempted to fix it with a Copalum crimp but clearly did not have the training to do so. My understanding is the Alumiconn is more expensive and my recent inspector said he likely took the cheaper way and got me the result I have.
 

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In your photo, it doesn't look like the wires were crimped with a COPALUM connector. Looks like the wires were twisted and some noalox was applied, and then capped with a regular wire nut. That's not an acceptable repair.

I would redo each connection with a Alumiconn connector. They are more expensive - around $3 to $4 each for each set of wires. So figure $10 to $12 per switch or outlet, just for the connector cost. Add labor on top of that.

Some people will tell you that the repair can be done with Ideal-65 Purple wire nuts. But testing has shown that they can cause fires, too. So that's not an acceptable repair, either. They are also about $4 each, so no savings over Alumiconns.

Here's a video of how a COPALUM repair is done. Skip ahead to the 1:50 mark. You can also see a photo of an example in the CPSC report.

 

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Going back to the questions you asked....

You still have a serious fire hazard with the way the pigtails were done. If you've got lights blinking, that's not a good sign. I would want that repaired properly as soon as possible.

Since the original electrician didn't know how to do the work properly in the first place, I wouldn't have a lot of confidence in having him do it over. You could ask for a refund, but might have to go to court to get it. Did he give you an estimate stating exactly how the repair would be done up front?
 

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Aluminum fatigues and breaks when bent too much. You may want to have someone experienced do the pigtails.

The Alumiconn connector is large and takes a bit to fit in the box.
 
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Another option is AL/CU receptacles and switches. But then you would loose your pigtails. I'm not sure of the price for each but I would at least check.
 

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I agree with previous posts, there are two ways to pigtail AL wiring, neither is what your electrician did.

Ace Hardware used to be the best place to buy ALCU devices, they are not cheap but light years better what that hack did to your home.

Applying materials to uses they are not rated for should be a crime. Most places pass it off as being stupid. I disagree. Loose AL connections can start fires.

So you have 3 methods of doing the job correctly, up to you on the how the job is done.
 

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I agree with previous posts, there are two ways to pigtail AL wiring, neither is what your electrician did.

Ace Hardware used to be the best place to buy ALCU devices, they are not cheap but light years better what that hack did to your home.

Applying materials to uses they are not rated for should be a crime. Most places pass it off as being stupid. I disagree. Loose AL connections can start fires.

So you have 3 methods of doing the job correctly, up to you on the how the job is done.
Yes, there are ALCU devices (formally called CO/ALR) that can be used with aluminum wiring. But the CPSC has found that these are subject to failure, too. If it was my house, and I was going to go through the effort to make the repair, I would want to use a method that has been proven to work and is safe, rather than one that has been shown to have problems.

From the CPSC report:

However, CO/ALR wiring devices have failed in laboratory tests when connected to aluminum wire typical of that installed in existing homes. The test conditions simulated actual use conditions; no “overstress” type of testing was used. Further, CO/ALR connectors are not available for all parts of the wiring system (e.g., for the permanently wired appliances and ceiling mounted light fixtures). In the opinion of CPSC staff, CO/ALR devices must be considered, at best, an incomplete repair.
 

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TLDR: you are fine with Alumiconn or CO/ALR devices.

The CPSC suffers from excessive alarm where aluminum wire is concerned. They claim only the COPALUM splice method will work. They are wrong. Perhaps they are lying on purpose, to "social engineer" people into hiring electricians instead of attempting DIY. Spreading FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) is stock and trade of such manipulations.

First, the hard science is that "set-screw" lug connectors with an aluminum body, torqued correctly. are safe. When the aluminum lug envelops an aluminum or copper wire, thermal expanson operates favorably. (the reverse is NOT true, which was half the problem with That 70s Wiring).

This "aluminum set-screw lug" method is used in the following locations:

  • Your panel's main lugs
  • Your panel's neutral and ground bars
  • Lugs on the meter pan
  • Polaris connectors (for #4 and larger)
  • Alumiconns (for #14-#10)
  • ILSCO Mac Block Connector (#14-#6)

This is all the same stuff.

CPSC can't have it both ways:
if Alumiconns are bad, then so are the neutral bars in your panel! So are the main lugs! So are Polaris connectors! And the hard data says that Just Ain't So. CPSC is wrong about Alumiconns. *

Further, CPSC's position was written before new science came to light which proved the importance of setting screw torques correctly with a torque tool, even on the small stuff. This problem was causing copper wire burn-ups - they weren't even looking for aluminum problems.

When you consider that nobody was using torque screwdrivers on the small stuff, everything makes sense, doesn't it?




Separate from that, the original problem with aluminum wiring was not the wire at all, but the brass/copper terminals "enveloping" around the AL wire. As discussed, that is backwards: now thermal expansion is the enemy and is crushing the aluminum wire, throwing off clamping force/torque. Mind you, nobody was properly setting torques back then, so it was even worse.

Since those brass terminals were UL's mistake (approving without proper testing), UL was particularly paranoid when revising the CO-ALR receptacle standard for 15-20A receptacles. CO-ALR is the current standard and has not been revised. Any 15-20A device with ALCU or CUAL on it is trash.

CO/ALR terminals are really something. They are made of an exotic metal called osmium, I believe, which has the right thermal expansion to do well as a terminal, and softness so it conforms to the aluminum wire giving no place for corrosion to occur.



Wire nuts do not work - not even the purple ones. Go google "burned up Alumiconn" and you'll see lots of pictures of burned up wire nuts, and none of burned up Alumiconns.



Yes, there are ALCU devices (formally called CO/ALR) that can be used with aluminum wiring.
No. CO/ALR has not been revised. It is the current standard for 15-20A receptacles.

If you're seeing ALCU on 30-50A receptacles, those were never caught up in the fiasco, and they did not need to be revised. Set torque correctly.
 

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The CPSC suffers from excessive alarm where aluminum wire is concerned. They claim only the COPALUM splice method will work.
That is not what the CPSC says. I suggest you actually read the report. It says Alumiconns are an acceptable alternate repair method.


No. CO/ALR has not been revised. It is the current standard for 15-20A receptacles.
Go back and re-read my post. I did not say CO/ALR has been revised.
 

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I believe what was meant was that the revised devices are marked CO/ALR, not CU/AL which was the first marking.
 

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Go back and re-read my post. I did not say CO/ALR has been revised.
Oh sorry, you said formALly, I read formERly. Still, ALCU is the obsolete rating to be avoided, so my confusion was understandable.

However, CO/ALR wiring devices have failed in laboratory tests when connected to aluminum wire typical of that installed in existing homes. The test conditions simulated actual use conditions;
Meaning they didn't use a torque screwdriver, or did but mis-torqued it on purpose to "simulate actual use conditions". That report pre-dates the 2014 requirement for torque screwdrivers.
 
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